Monday, January 16, 2017

The Feminism of Ancient Arabia

I reject the typical Islamaphobia of the modern Western Church.  I would never convert to Islam because of it's Theology, Soterology and Christology.  But I believe the violence of the modern Arab world is mainly the result of being politically occupied for centuries by first Ottomans and then European colonialism.  They didn't have this problem under the Caliphs of their Golden Age.  And on the Ishmael tag of my Prophecy blog I've spent time talking about potential common ground.

However one major area where the claims of Islamic Apologists seem awfully hard for me to buy is when they want to make Muhammad seem like an ancient proto-Feminist.  Because Sura 4 is pretty irredeemably Misogynist, and Sura 33 is problematic too.  The Huffington Post article claiming Muhammad was a Feminist provides not one single quote from The Koran.

Muslims can be Feminists in-spite of what The Koran says.  But that doesn't change what the Koran says.

Now if someone wants to go "The Bible is sexist too" that's a fair direction to take the conversation.  But the thing is I have actually cited Scripture in my arguments that The Bible is more Feminist then most people realize. And I will never deny that parts of it certainly reflect being the product of a Patriarchal Culture.  But The Bible never says that how the world is is how it should be, it says the opposite.  Nor will I deny mainstream Greco-Roman Christianity has been guilty of a lot of the world's misogyny for the last 1700 years.

But the thing I have observed that others talking about the Sexism of Muhammad have not.  Is how I don't feel it can even entirely be blamed on being a product of his time.  I've seen a lot of evidence that leads me to conclude Pre-Islamic Arabia was quite shockingly Feminist, maybe even matriarchal, compared to the then contemporary Greco-Roman world at least, including sadly most Christians and Jews living within it.

The evidence of this starts contemporary with Muhammad, before he had his first "vision" at age 40 in 610 AD.  He was married to an older woman, who was a very wealthy and successful business woman, Khadija bint Khuwaylid.  Muhammad's early success in spreading his religion was dependent on her support, and other key relatives of her's.  But she died in 620 AD, and a few of those key relatives of her's died around the same time.  It wasn't until after she died that Muhammad started practicing Polygamy.  And it wasn't till after those deaths he finally conquered Medina and then started giving the Median Suras, the latest Suras to be given.  Suras 2, 4 and 33 and 65 were all Median Suras.  From those came all of the most undeniably Sexist of the Koran's verses.

I can't help but wonder if Muhammad was insecure about being supported by a wealthier woman for so long.  But regardless, the fact remains that perhaps if he had died before Khadija Islam's record on Women's rights would be much different.  Of course gender isn't the only thing Muhammad started changing his tune on around this time, from 610-624 Jerusalem not Mecca was the location Muhammad taught to pray towards.  It was also a Median Sura (Sura 2, the first Median Sura) that introduced the doctrine of Abrogation.  Sura 9 was the second to last Sura given.

I could talk about the Queen of Sheba and some Extra-Biblical Arabic traditions related to her implying that the Kingdom of Sheba was ruled by women for 60 straight Queens.  But for here I want to stick to recorded history.

From 750-675 BC the Qedarites, the same tribe that Muhammad's family would eventually come from, were ruled by five successive ruling Queens.
  • Zabibe (ruled c. 750–735 BC)
  • Samsi (ruled c. 735–710 BC)
  • Yatie (ruled c. 710–695 BC)
  • Te'elkhunu (ruled c. 695–690 BC)
  • Tabua (ruled c. 678–675 BC)
And that is pretty much the beginning of Arabs entering recorded History.  Besides an Arab leader being present as the Battle of Qarqar, who's gender we can't be certain of since the Assyrian who wrote the record probably never met them.

Contemporary with the last of those were were Baslu, the queen of Ikhilu, and Iapa1, the queen of Dikhrani, a Nabataean clan (Musil, pp. 483 f.; Luckenbill, II, 209). And a little later Adia during the reign of Asurbanipal (Musil, p. 485 f.; Luckenbill, II, 400).

Later the Nabatean Kingdom based in Petra often seemed to have the Queens literally Co-Ruleing with the Kings.
Queen Zenoobia is sometimes classified as an Arab.  But her ancestry is a bit controversial as she claimed descent from Hannibal and Anthony & Cleopatra through the marriage of their daughter Cleopatra Selene to Juba of Mauritania.

And one of my personal favorite overlooked figures of History was Queen Mavia(Māwiyya), an Arabic Christian Queen who reigned about 375-425 AD.  I'll be talking about her more in the future.
    It seems Muhammad's influence didn't change Arabia over night, given the power and influence Aisha and maybe Fatima were able to wield in the years following his death.  But it still seems clear looking at History that Arabia has been a lot worse for Women since Muhammad then it was before.

    It shouldn't surprise us that follows of Muhammad aren't keen on Female Rulers.  As the Hadiths relate.
    "Narrated Abu Bakra: ... When the Prophet heard the news that the people of the Persia had made the daughter of Khosrau their Queen (ruler), he said, "Never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler."" - Sahih Bukhari 9:88:219
    So thus we haven't often seen female rulers in Islamic Arabia.

    Also Sahih Bukkari records.
    `Aisha said, "I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women.".

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